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Identifying the standard of care in malpractice cases involving counseling professionals, P.2

In any healthcare-related liability case, it is not enough for a plaintiff to provide evidence of a poor outcome and to blame that poor outcome on the health professional. Not every poor health outcome is attributable to professional error, and not every professional error rises to the level of malpractice.

What must be done to build a meritorious malpractice case is to establish the standard of care, the course of action that would have been expected of the professional, and to show that the professional’s failure to follow the legal standard was a sufficiently significant cause of the harm suffered by the patient.   

As we mentioned last time, standards of care are not always easy to establish. Much depends on the circumstances of the case, but also on the type of health care professional involved. For cases involving counseling professionals, the legal standard of care has to be distinguished from risk management guidelines hospitals and professionals use to reduce the risk of error for purposes of managing insurance costs. Also, counseling standards of care do not follow any particular theoretical orientation, and many counseling standards of care evolve over time. These and other factors must be taken into account when building a malpractice case against a negligent counseling professional.

For patients who are harmed by a counseling professional, and/or their families, the important thing in assessing potential violation of a standard of care is to determine whether the counseling professional violated any ethics guidelines, licensing regulations, or any federal or state law, whether established by statute or in case law. Navigating such matters can be challenging, even for a seasoned professional, and patients are advised to work with experienced legal counsel to ensure they build the strongest possible malpractice case and have skilled assistance navigating the courts and the legal process.

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